It’s hard to imagine a more generic entry into the Brit Chick Lit genre than this debut novel by newspaper columnist and television personality Jane Moore. You’ve got your basic heroine who is dumped by her husband, the cheeky best friend, the difficult mother, and the eventual emergence of Mr. Right after said heroine has a series of misadventures with assorted Mr. Wrongs. Nothing new here, but nothing remarkably bad, either.
Our heroine du jour is Josephine Miles, thirty-something mother of two children and a part-time interior designer, who discovers that her husband Jeff is having an affair with his young, blonde secretary. After the initial shock and sense of rejection wears off, Jo gamely gets on with her life, with the help of her brother Tim and her best friend Rosie.
As the cutesy title suggests, there are indeed four men in Jo’s life, but her interactions with them are not as sordid as the novel’s cover indicates. Jo finds herself attracted to Tim’s best mate Connor, but quickly decides it would be too weird to become involved with someone she’s known since he was a twelve-year-old pest. She also draws the attention of Sean, a dashing photojournalist and Martin, a wealthy music mogul who is her primary interior design client. As she sorts out the type of relationship she wants with each guy, Jeff comes crawling back after his secretary dumps him. Should Jo take him back, even if it’s primarily for the sake of the children? Can she ever trust him again? Or is there another option that will bring her love, sex and happiness?
Admittedly, most Brit Chick Lit novels are basically predictable, but getting to the happy ending should be fun. Unfortunately, most of the humor in Fourplay falls flat because it relies on bad jokes or tired puns. Moore has her characters say things like “I’ll double-cross that bridge when I come to it” and “A full bottle in front of me leads to a frontal lobotomy,” instead of letting the humor emerge naturally from the situations they encounter. As Jo herself would say, Ha bloody ha. Also, for a Brit Chick Lit novel, Fourplay doesn’t put much emphasis on the “Brit.” It seems to be written directly for an American audience, with much of the British dialect and cultural references airbrushed out. This dumbing-down may have been done in an effort to minimize confusion for us unenlightened Statesiders, but it has the unintended effect of removing the very quality that makes the genre so delightful.
Jo’s character is the strongest aspect of the novel. Unlike many contemporary heroines, she is neither ditzy nor desperate. She takes charge of her life fairly quickly after Jeff leaves, and generally makes responsible decisions without whining about her misfortune or falling into self-destructive patterns. Of course, it’s easy for Jo to move forward because she has almost no child care problems - in a twist that could only happen in fiction, loyal, single Rosie and unemployed, dating disaster Tim are always willing to drop everything and take care of little Thomas and Sophie whenever Jo has a social engagement.
A heroine who realizes that “a sexual relationship isn’t the only source of happiness” is always welcome, but there’s nothing original about Fourplay that would cause me to seek out this author’s future releases.